South Forsyth’s Area 5-7A tournament showing didn’t start out at all like they’d hoped.
On Thursday, the War Eagles were without leading hitter Avery Svehla, and while they came out motivated and trying to play for her, they were swept by Milton and didn’t score more than 20 points in any of their sets.
So with the area’s No. 3 seed on the line against West Forsyth on Saturday with Svehla still out with a knee injury, the War Eagles were determined to show that Thursday was an outlier.
The Wolverines didn’t make anything easy for South, but ultimately, the War Eagles rebounded from their Thursday performance with a gritty 3-1 win over West, 27-25, 24-26, 25-19, 25-21.
“That Thursday match kind of stuck with us a little bit,” South Forsyth coach Steffi Legall-Riddle said. “Even when it got a bit tighter, we stayed positive, kept swinging and stayed aggressive, too. We had a good game plan today and the girls really executed on that. I'm just really proud of their mental turnaround.”
That game plan centered on spreading the ball around to multiple players to get the kills, with Olivia Grady, Brinley Bramwell, Ava McGlockton and Aliyah Thompson each getting in on the action. In the first set, West jumped out to a 5-2 lead, but the two teams battled to the wire, with South scoring two straight points to take the slim win in the opening game.
“I think Aliyah Thompson played much better today than she did on Thursday, so that gave us a big boost on the outside,” Segall-Riddle said. “I thought both of our middles continued to stay strong. Our backcourt was a little more organized today and our passing was a little bit stronger, so we were able to get the ball to our middles a little bit more effectively.”
The second set was more of the same, but with a different outcome. Lymaris Vasquez, Caula Cowart and Abby Kingsbury each came away with big plays to help keep up with the War Eagles, ultimately tying the match with another two-point result. West overcame a West lead in the third set, taking the lead at 18-17 before going on a 7-2 run to come to within a point of the victory, which they snagged after a fourth set that went back and forth.
South will travel all the way to Camden County to play Norcross in the first round of the state playoffs, while West will visit Brookwood. While the War Eagles’ scenario isn’t ideal, they’re set to get Svehla back, which should only help them.
“That should give us another emotional lift,” Segall-Riddle said. “This is now the third phase of the season that's starting. It's a privilege to still be playing.”